Johnson & Johnson’s Vaccine Pain Could Be Moderna’s and Pfizer’s Vaccine Gain

By now you’ve heard the news. On Tuesday, April 13, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Food and Drug Administration cited six reports of patients developing blood clots after receiving Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine in deciding to recommend a “pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution.”

The reported blood clots seem to be very rare — just six cases out of 6.8 million doses administered (so literally a one-in-a-million chance). And the blood clots developed 6 to 13 days after the vaccines were administered, so there may even be a question of causation. Nevertheless, the CDC plans to “convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance,” and the FDA will also review the data presented there.

Until a decision is reached, it seems Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine is going to be put on the shelf — its administration suspended not only in the U.S., but in Europe as well.

Responding to the news, SVB Leerink analyst Danielle Antalffy predicts that the ACIP “will recommend a demographic-based restriction to the recommendation for the product’s use,” i.e., recommending that it not be administered to certain patients in demographic groups where blood clots have been noted, but perhaps permitting it to continue being administered to demographic groups where blood clots have not occurred.

Even such a partial permission to proceed with Johnson & Johnson vaccinations, however, could encounter further restrictions based on “a follow up FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) meeting” that is planned.

So what’s the upshot for investors? Antalffy presents the Johnson & Johnson news in the context of similar blood clotting concerns that have been raised over AstraZeneca’s AZD1222 COVID vaccine, and the widespread suspensions of administration of that vaccine as well.

There seems to be a pattern forming, in which governments are hesitating to recommend administration of vaccines utilizing “adenovirus viral delivery platforms” (i.e. Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca) in preference to vaccines utilizing mRNA (such as Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines) to prime the body’s immune system to fight off the disease. Simply put, although the clotting risk seems rare in Johnson & Johnson’s and AstraZeneca’s, “there do not appear to have been cases of this specific rare thrombotic syndrome in individuals who have received the mRNA COVID vaccines” at all.

And suffice it to say, it’s going to be a whole lot easier to convince people to take their vaccines when they can be advertised as having no risk, versus even just a very small risk.

Result: Advantage, Moderna and Pfizer.

In Antalffy’s opinion, the broad upshot of this latest news is that use of any vaccine other than one produced by Moderna or Pfizer will now “plummet,” while use of those two companies’ vaccines will ramp to the limits that production levels permit.

One final wild card deserves mention: Antalffy notes that “the protein-based vaccine candidate from Novavax is the most likely beneficiary among the vaccines not yet authorized in the US.” Phase 3 clinical trial data on that one is expected “imminently,” and emergency use authorization could follow in either Q2 or early Q3 2021.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.